In her monthly column The Moon in Full, Nina MacLaughlin illuminates humanity’s long-standing lunar fascination. Each installment is published in advance of the full moon.
Tootsie Roll Tom showed up at all the Little League games in the town where I grew up. Soccer games, too. He kept Tootsie Rolls in his pockets and in a small canvas satchel he wore on his shoulder. He arrived on his bicycle and kids surrounded him as he pulled the Tootsie Rolls from his pockets and his pouch and placed the candy in their eager palms. He was well loved in the town. In the town there was also a psychiatric hospital, formerly known as an insane asylum. My mom called it the loony bin, and she was not the only one. The rumor was that Tootsie Roll Tom lived there. He lived there but was not secured to a bed in a room with bars on the windows; he was allowed to ride his bicycle around the town, and wave at everyone he saw, and give candy to the children who crowded around him like hungry, happy little goslings. He had an open, friendly face. He was not too tall and he wore his socks pulled up. The town honored him with a day named after him, embodying a spirit of warmth, welcome, and generosity that the town fathers and mothers wanted to celebrate. The state shuttered the psychiatric hospital almost two decades ago (where did the patients go?) and a redevelopment project might turn the asylum to condos. The rumor was—I heard it in middle school from one of the older middle schoolers—the rumor was that Tootsie Roll Tom was in the institution, if he was, because he had raped his mother.
It’s rumored that emergency rooms and psychiatric wards are more active at the full moon. It’s rumored that crime spikes. It’s rumored that people get a little crazed and don’t know what to do with their bodies. You’ve heard these rumors. From bartenders and nurses and nursery school teachers. Maybe you’ve felt it your very self. I saw a neighbor on the street and asked how she was doing. “It’s the full moon, you know,” she said, “so I feel completely demented.” It made news that a town in England put more cops on patrol on full moons. Sylvia Plath knew: the moon “drags the sea after it like a dark crime.”
Of all months, I suspected July, with its thick sour heat, its stewy dead light, must have the most crime, and the full moon in July, the big Thunder Moon, must be one of the crimiest times of the year. Sticky-thighed July, when walls of heat press in, shortening tempers, contorting perspective, squeezing the pouches that hold the dark urges where pressure builds like a blister until dark ashy oozings seep from apertures otherwise pinched. July is the month that crouches behind a tree in the dark, having soaked for a year in sour milk, all its flesh molded and rotting. It waits for you to pass by the tree then pushes itself against you, its slick, rotting skin on your skin. No knives, no guns, just a stinking all-wrongness and you can’t get the smell off. Read More